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the worst instead of the best match, I might have tried to make the most of it and risked something, or even lost all for him. But that is a mother's heart; no other heart can be like a mother's.'
Iris might have answered, none save the heart of that most perfect type of womanhood in which motherliness is the central human principle from the beginning. It may be seen in the little girl who 'mothers' in succession her doll, her kitten, her dog, her thoughtless schoolboy brother, her selfish grown-up sister, her exacting, unconscionable lover, her grumpy husband-until the long roll at last reaches her first bona-fide baby. It may be seen in the aged woman whose last conscious thought is to give others pleasure and save them trouble. But Iris remained silent.
'I shall not see you for some time, my dear girl,' said Lady Thwaite, in her most caressing tones ; 'I hope—nay, I have not the slightest doubt—that any little misunderstanding or difference of opinion we may have had will be entirely forgotten before then. In the meantime, I shall look forward to our next meeting. We part friends, don't we, Iris ?
Oh yes, we part friends,' answered Iris, a little mechanically, and Lady Thwaite kissed and left her.
Iris clasped her hands and asked herself, Why cannot I believe her? She blames me, to be sure; but even she does not refuse to admit that I was free to act as I chose. Lucy
-everybody agrees in that, unless grandmamma, and I can make allowance for her liking for Sir William and her wish to get an establishment for me. Oh, I don't want an establishment; and it is most humiliating to have one sought out and planned for on my account. He did not think of things in that light. However unreasonable and unsuitable, he sought me for myself, and implored me to take him not Whitehills. Has he got over it already? Is this that he has done getting over it, or will worse come of it, with two ungovernable, reckless spirits in collision-not in union ? Ladý Thwaite fears it, and so she has taken herself away not to be tortured or shocked by the tragedy.'
Iris set herself to brood on all the most horrible tragedies—the unhappy memories of which lingered in a remote, primitive county like Eastham. There were disappointed lovers who liad shot themselves, dying with the stain VOL. II.
of their life-blood upon their hands. There were neglected ill-used women who had sought the oblivion of strong drink, or worked themselves into frenzied madness under the contemplation of their wrongs. There were hapless little children who grew up uncared-for and forlorn, bones of contention instead of links of love between their miserable fathers and mothers. And who was it that had first used the defence which Iris had made so glibly to Lady Thwaite? Cain, who slew his brother Abel. She must have dismissed Sir William, but could she not have done it so gently, with such humility instead of pride, with such sympathy and sorrow, that she would have retained him as her friend ? She might have helped to win him to what was good and right, in place of sending him to his destruction.
One of poor Honor's grave offences, in the eyes of the Rector especially, was that she had not been in the habit of coming to church. But Sir William had always marched there, taken his seat in the Whitehills pew, and joined in the service according to military usage. From the first day that the banns were published, he marched Honor to church in his company, on the ground that they would
do nothing in the dark, and they were not ashamed of their purpose, which they were bringing to its legitimate issue. He did not ask her to sit with him in the Whitehills pew; he descended the gallery stairs, and sat by her in one of the humble free seats near the door, which she had been wont to occupy on the rare occasions when she had been seen at church.
He did not enter any protest against her dress, possibly he did not notice it in the pitch of furious reaction and defiance which he had reached, though he knew that she had refused all gifts from him till she was his wife. Thus she wore nothing better than the least rusty of her black gowns, with one of her gaudycoloured neckerchiefs, and the concession of a hat over her rough brown hair. In this guise she still appeared a handsome, striking-looking woman, and there was no denying that the discharged soldier and the poaching scoundrel's daughter formed a comely, stalwart couple.
The sensation which the pair excited was beyond what would have been produced by the entrance of the Queen and every member of the royal family into the country church though Eastham was not behind other English
shires in loyalty. The Rector had difficulty in keeping his place and countenance, and reading with his usual solemn dramatic effect. If Lady Fermor had been in her pew she would almost certainly have spoken out her disapproval, to the scandal of the community ; but the old lady was absent, for which more than one person felt devoutly thankful.
Iris saw the two from the Rectory pew, and after one startled, wistful glance, in which she failed to meet the eye of either, a certain peace stole over her little face. They were all together in the house of God; they were equal in His sight. Would not He make everything right and bring good out of evil ?
There was one person who ventured to greet the tabooed bride and bridegroom, from whom others separated themselves and scattered, as if the couple were uncanny, or carried about with them the seeds of a pestilence. The daring individual was, of all people, that modest fellow, King Lud. He went out of his way to intercept and address Sir William, a piece of attention which met with no encouragement from its object, and drew down censure upon the bestower.
“My dear Ludovic,'Mrs. Acton remonstrated